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Immigration should be easier: Heil: Foreign skilled workers ensure prosperity

Immigration should be easier
Heil: Foreign skilled workers ensure prosperity

In order to counter the shortage of skilled workers, the federal government wants to ease the immigration rules. Minister of Labor Heil says that there must be a massive desire for skilled workers to immigrate. The opposition has expressed concerns.

From the point of view of Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil, new rules for the immigration of skilled workers will help to secure the country’s prosperity. “Our goal is the most modern immigration law in Europe, because we compete with many countries for clever minds and helping hands,” said the SPD politician to the SWR capital city studio. “The fact that we get the right people secures prosperity in Germany.”

The federal government wants to make it much easier for qualified workers to immigrate from abroad in order to counter the sometimes very severe shortage of skilled workers. To this end, the cabinet will adopt a key issues paper this Wednesday. Heil demanded: “We must not simply accept the immigration of skilled workers bureaucratically as in the past, but we must want it massively.” He spoke of a “national effort” for the federal, state and local governments – and also for the economy.

Points system with chance card

Recognized specialists with a valid employment contract should be able to come to Germany more easily than before. On the basis of a points system, skilled workers without an employment contract should also be allowed to enter the country if they do particularly well in certain selection criteria such as language skills or professional experience. Third-country nationals “with good potential” should be able to stay there to look for a job. “We will introduce a job search opportunity card based on a transparent, unbureaucratic points system,” the paper says. Qualifications, language skills, professional experience, connection to Germany and age are named as selection criteria.

After the key points, the traffic light cabinet should also approve the corresponding draft laws in the first quarter of 2023. Heil told SWR: “The law will be passed next year (…) and I want us to see the success of this law on the labor market by 2025 at the latest – and that’s not far away.”

IG Metall chairman Jörg Hofmann supports the plans. “As a society, we benefit when qualified workers come to Germany,” he told the German Press Agency. So it is time to tackle the issue. “Bureaucratic hurdles – from applying for a visa to the recognition of professional qualifications – are hindering immigration today,” complained the chairman of Germany’s largest individual trade union. The economy has long been calling for easier immigration of skilled workers.

Approval of the DIHK

However, the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) called for improvements, for example with regard to the salary limit and the recruitment of trainees from abroad. “The key issues paper still contains very little on this. With the growing number of unfilled training places in Germany, we have to become even more pragmatic in order to attract more trainees from third countries,” said deputy DIHK general manager Achim Dercks of the “Rheinische Post”.

Craft President Hans Peter Wollseifer called for a realignment of the immigration authorities and the German embassies abroad. “The immigration authorities have to become “welcome centres”, visas have to be issued more quickly. Otherwise people won’t come, especially since Germany doesn’t have the very best reputation as an immigration country anyway,” Wollseifer told the newspaper.

Germany will be dependent on immigration in the coming years, said the managing director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, Catherine Hinz, the editorial network Germany (RND). “The baby boomers are retiring and the number of people of working age is shrinking – according to a forecast by the Berlin Institute, from around 50 million today by around twelve percent to 44 million in 2035.” At least 260,000 people would have to immigrate each year to just about cover the forecast demand for labour. “Since the main countries of origin in the EU are experiencing similar demographic developments as Germany, EU immigration will in all likelihood decrease,” said Hinz. “Immigration from third countries will become more important.”

Opposition criticizes

The Union had expressed reservations about the government plans. The parliamentary manager of the Union faction, Thorsten Frei, gave the targeted points system a rejection. Group leader Friedrich Merz said that the Union would examine appropriate proposals without prejudice. However, the points system is “probably more applicable to other countries than to ours”.

In the dispute over a reform of naturalization law, Green Party leader Omid Nouripour also argued that Germany was attractive to foreign skilled workers. “Many companies are already finding it difficult to find skilled workers and the gap will increase in the years to come,” he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “We compete worldwide for the brightest minds and have to offer them prospects in Germany. The modernization of citizenship law is therefore overdue.”

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser plans to allow immigrants to obtain German citizenship after just five years instead of the previous eight years, or even after three years in the case of “special integration achievements”. Sharp criticism came from the CDU and CSU, but there are also reservations in the ranks of the coalition partner FDP.

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